How to Test Network Speed in Linux via CLI

November 25, 2020

Introduction

With the increase in people staying at home and spending more time on the Internet, ISPs have seen traffic loads higher than ever. If you noticed your network speed was slower at times, this global overload is the reason.

There are many online tools to test internet speed. However, Linux users can do this from the command prompt window. Some of the utilities for testing both local and internet speed we will cover are:

  • Speedtest
  • Fast
  • Color Bandwidth Meter (CBM)
  • iPerf
  • nload
  • Tcptrack
  • Iftop
  • Wget
  • youtube-dl

Follow the instructions in this article to learn how to test network connection speed on Linux using the terminal. The steps work in both normal and headless mode.

How to test network speed on Linux.

Prerequisites

  • A machine running Linux
  • sudo / root permissions
  • Access to a terminal / command-prompt window

Test Network Speed on Linux Via Command Line

The tools in this guide help you check the Internet and LAN speed on a Linux machine. The article uses Ubuntu 20.04 for instructions, but the utilities work for any Linux distribution.

Note: Use the appropriate package manager for your Linux distribution, for example, yum for RHEL / CentOS, to install the apps.

Using speedtest-cli to Test Internet Speed

One of the most famous online internet connection test apps is speedtest.net. To install Speedtest on Linux via the terminal, use a package manager for your distro.

On Ubuntu, enter:

sudo apt install speedtest-cli
Install speedtest-cli on Ubuntu.

Optionally, use pip to install speedtest-cli in Python:

sudo pip install speedtest-cli

To run the test, type:

speedtest
Run speedtest on Linux.

The standard speedtest-cli output shows all steps, including selecting a server. To display a shorter output, enter:

speedtest -simple

The test is simple to use and provides multiple options. To view all of them, pass the -h flag to display the speedtest-cli help file.

Using fast-cli to Test Internet Speed

Fast is a lightweight CLI utility based on the web speed test fast.com. The test uses Netflix servers to provide results.

Fast-cli is simple to use, but you need the node package manager (NPM) on your machine. The package comes with Nodejs.

For example, to install Node.js version 15, enter these commands:

curl -sL https://deb.nodesource.com/setup_15.x | sudo -E bash -

Then, run the install command:

sudo apt install -y nodejs

If needed, run the npm init command and then install Fast:

npm install --global fast-cli
Install Fast-cli on Linux.

To test the download speed, enter:

fast

To show both the download and upload speed, add the -u option:

fast -u
Use the fast-cli test to show the download and upload speed.

This internet speed test aims to provide only the information about your connection speed, without any bells and whistles.

Note: Since NPM is a requirement, it can be a hassle to install fast-cli. If you need more help with NPM installation, see our guides How To Install Node.Js And NPM On CentOS or How To Install Node.Js & NPM On Ubuntu.

Using CMB to Show Network Speed

The Color Bandwidth Meter (CMB) is a Linux tool that displays activity on all network interfaces. After the installation, run the tool to see network speeds in color-coded columns.

To install CBM, run this command:

sudo apt install cbm
install CBM on Linux.

When the process finishes, run the tool:

cbm

The output displays the transmit, receive, and total speed. Use the arrows to switch between the interfaces.

Displays activity on all network interfaces with CBM test.

Using iperf to Measure Network Speed Between Two Devices

The iPerf tool provides many options for testing connection speed between a server and a client. Hence, to perform a test, you need to install the utility on both machines:

sudo apt install iperf
Install iPerf tool on Linux.

Make sure the client can reach the server. For quick confirmation, run a ping test.

If port 5001 is open, the connection works. So, on the server machine, enter:

iperf -s

The device starts listening for a connection request.

Use iPerf to run a ping test.

On the other machine, enter:

iperf -c [server_IP]

For example:

iperf -c 192.168.56.101

The output shows the transfer and bandwidth information:

Show the transfer and bandwidth information with iperf command.

Using nload to View Incoming and Outgoing Network Traffic

Nload is a tool that monitors incoming and outgoing activity on a network interface you specify. The application splits the traffic into two sections for easier data analysis.

To install the tool, enter:

sudo apt install nload
Install Nload on Linux.

To run the application, specify the network interface:

nload enp0s3

If there is activity on the selected interface, nload displays network speed details.

Displays network speed details with Nload.

Using tcptrack to Test Network Activity

TCPtrack shows the connection status for a network interface. When your machine’s network is active, run this tool to view and monitor bandwidth speed and usage.

To install tcptrack on Linux Ubuntu, enter:

sudo apt install tcptrack
Install TCPtrack on Linux.

To view network activity with TCPtrack, specify the network interface. To find the device name, use the ifconfig tool.

In our case, it is enp0s3

sudo tcptrack -i enp0s3

The terminal displays the network activity on the selected interface. The total network speed is at the bottom of the terminal:

Displays the network activity with TCPtrack test.

Note: Make sure you run tcptrack with sudo. Otherwise, this error pops up: pcap_open_live: enp0s3: You don’t have permission to capture on that device (socket: Operation not permitted)

TCPtrack is customizable and offers options to narrow down the test to specific ports, for example.

To do so, pass the port option and the port number:

sudo tcptrack -i enp0s3 port 443

If there is no activity on the port, the output is blank.

Using iftop to Test Speed on a Network Interface

Iftop lets you view network speed for a defined interface. The tool shows a similar output to what tcptrack provides.

To install iftop, run this command:

sudo apt install iftop
Install Iftop on Linux.

To launch the utility, use the -i flag and specify your network interface.
In our case:

sudo iftop -i enp0s3

The output shows the activity for the device. The bottom of the screen provides a traffic summary.

Show network activity for device with Iftop test.

If you do not specify a network interface, iftop selects the first available. Make sure you run the command with sudo to avoid any errors.

Using wget to Test Download Speed

Wget is a CLI tool for downloading content from web servers. Since the tool does not upload files, you can only test the download speed.

If you do not have wget on your Ubuntu machine, enter this command to install it:

sudo apt install wget

Now, choose a reliable server to download a file and test your internet speed. For example, use phoenixNAP’s 1GB test file from the list.

This example uses a server located in Phoenix:

wget -O /dev/null -q --show-progress http://174.138.175.114/PHX-1GB.test
Test the download speed with wget command.

Using youtube-dl to Test Internet Speed

An unconventional way to test your download speed is to use the youtube-dl CLI utility. The tool allows you to download YouTube videos and view the download speed.

To install youtube-dl, enter:

sudo apt install youtube-dl

The application takes around 268MB of space. While the installation is in progress, choose a video you want to download and save the URL.

When the process finishes, use this command but replace the URL with the one you selected:

youtube-dl -f best --no-part --no-cache-dir -o /dev/null --newline https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8TLsqgLDMN4

The terminal shows the download progress, file size, download speed, and ETA.

Use youtube-dl to test internet speed.

The command above does not save the file to any filesystem, hence the /dev/null part.

This example used a short phoenixNAP BMC demo video of around 19MB. Choose a longer video for more precise results.

Conclusion

The article showed you nine ways to test network speed in Linux via CLI. Choose the tool depending on whether you want to test local network speed, internet speed, etc.

The tools work for all Linux distributions, so make sure you use the right package manager.

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Goran Jevtic
Goran combines his passions for research, writing and technology as a technical writer at phoenixNAP. Working with multiple departments and on a variety of projects, he has developed extraordinary understanding of cloud and virtualization technology trends and best practices.
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